In response to my request for comments from readers on their ideas for the prominent themes of the 21st century, I received a particularly provocative response from Dr. John Fieler, which follows in part:
“This century will either be noted for the rise of a third party into a position of prominence in this country, or the demise of our form of government into just another socialist country. The Republican Party is now nothing more than another entitlement generator. They have abdicated their basic principles in order to win election and they brag about the permanence of their proposed entitlements. I don’t know where the new party will come from, but it will be the only chance for a revolution within the framework of the Constitution………………..When the ruling class takes from the producers to give to the non-producers, society eventually unravels. Ours will be no different.”
Coincidentally, and consistent with John’s theme, David Brooks for The Weekly Standard editors produced a lead editorial on June 24, entitled “The Problem With K Street Conservatism”, in which he bemoans the tepid response of conservatism as practiced by the Republican Party to the current range of opportunities for transformational leadership. As he puts it, “instead of a fundamental debate about ideas, conservative politics becomes transactionalism”. I have written before about the difference between transformational and transactional leadership and the difference it makes for our country. With K Street corporate priorities dominant, we get transactional leadership tied to the here and now, devoid of transformational ideas, with no strategic vision and plenty of cynicism. Where are the Gingrich-era insurgents? It makes one wonder why it is important for conservatives to elect Republicans, for they have done very little to differentiate themselves from the other party. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review points out that the Democrats have been successful in frustrating the Republicans because the latter have refused to politicize the war. It seems that they hope that homeland security will drown out debate on domestic issues and allow them to avoid such debate. This is a strategy that will doom them to minority status.
July 11, 2002 was the 21st anniversary of the Kemp-Roth bill, the legislation most responsible for completely transforming the terms of policy debate and launching the Reagan Revolution. And how did he do it with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress? He went over their heads to the people and won with Democratic support. The economic boom that is just now taking a breather began then. Properly understood and properly articulated, limited government and conservative policy wins. The tragedy of the 1990’s, beginning in 1988, is that we allowed the Reagan economic policies to be discredited without lifting a finger to defend them philosophically or with the facts of their success.
President Bush should forget about the K Street crowd and use his high approval rating now in the same way Reagan used his popularity. Otherwise, maybe John Fieler is right, that a third party revolution is the wave of the future.